DSCN5494Our hearts are breaking. We have lived in Ukraine since 2001 and therefore experienced their celebration of 10 years of independence, the Orange Revolution, the disappointment and discouragement after no change in Ukraine after the revolution, and now we are literally standing with our friends on Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square). Well, I’m not currently there. But I have stood with the opposition during their protests. And what an honor and privilege that is.

I received an e-mail from Jim earlier today with the writings of a dear personal friend:

I do not know where to even begin (or continue?) my updates on the situation in Ukraine. From recent events: (1) we kept seeing more violent actions from our government, (2) courts are not doing their jobs any more (as if they did it before, but now judges blatantly disregard the law and serve the interests of the “family”, i.e. our president and his immediate circle of friends and relatives)… as one instance, a judge who in 2011 acquitted a worker of a court for driving over and killing a woman (mother of three kids), recently sentenced a person for 6 years in prison for alleged planning to demolish a monument to Lenin, (3) the budget that opposition has been fighting was voted for without following proper parliamentary protocol, and this budget (as just one example) increases funding of all law enforcement agencies up to $2.162 billion, which is $764 million increase since four years ago, when Yanukovich first came to power (welcome to the police state!), (4) number of legislations are enforced that prohibit (and punish) Ukrainians to collect and distribute materials that government deems “extremists”, Ukrainians cannot speak against current government as it may be perceived as defamation and punishable by law (therefore, no speaking against judges, police, etc.)…

Just came across another post on FB, which speaks loudly to these issues:

Kolisnichenko-Oliynyk Draft Law #3879 voted in by the Verkhovna Rada by MPs raising hands (!) includes (but is not limited to) the following amendments to the Criminal Code of Ukraine:

– participants of peaceful protests and demonstrations that took place without the permission of police can be arrested for up to 15 days;
– blocking of state buildings is punished by up to 5 years of imprisonment;
– cars which move in a convoy of more than 5 vehicles can be confiscated; (with driving licenses confiscated as well – AK)
– collecting personal information about policemen, judges and other state agents – such as them lying under oath, accepting bribes, etc. can lead to arrest for up to 6 months;
– NGOs that receive grants from any foreign state/fund/organization/individual and that take part in ANY kind of political activity in Ukraine are now considered “foreign agents”, must register as such; they are stripped of their non-profit status and taxed by new, complicated procedure. [translation by Iryna Lysenko]

What can I say? Welcome to dictatorship?

Please please pray fervently for the people of Ukraine — for the leadership, for the military/police, for the opposition.


Kyiv, Ukraine

Kyiv, UkraineWhat’s going on in Ukraine…and who cares? It actually surprises me to hear from friends in the U.S. that they are seeing nothing on the news. Really?

This article from Forbes might help you understand WHY it’s important to keep an eye on Ukraine.

The Kyiv Post is posting timely updates here, just so you’re up to snuff.

Please pray for the people of Ukraine. And the leaders. And the opposition. And the law enforcers.

(Photo via TheBlogPirate)

Peaceful demonstrations

Give thanksWe spent some time this afternoon at European square in downtown Kyiv. Guesstimating over 100,000 participants protesting the government’s cancellation of trade talks with the European Union late last week. The agreement was hopefully going to be signed at the end of this week in Lithuania.

For the most part, the demonstrations have been without incident. Although tonight there were scuffles between police and protesters … the TV news showed tear gas and clubs being used from both sides.

Thankful for peaceful demonstrations. Praying they continue with no serious incidents…they intend to demonstrate until the end of the week with the hopes to change the direction of Ukraine’s government back towards Europe and not aligning with Russia and its trade coalition.

We will see what happens.

Kyiv demonstrations

Ukraine linksReminiscent of the Orange Revolution, Ukrainians are taking to the street to protest a decision made by the government. Our house guest joined the crowds after midnight last night and said the estimated numbers were close to 2000 participants at one point, but were closer to 1000 when he left. All were vowing to return to the streets again today, with a large demonstration expected on Sunday.

I must say that it was much more pleasant to stand in the lightly-falling snow of the Orange Revolution than it is in the cold drizzly rain this year.

Read more here

UMO board

Give thanksHow very thankful I am for the amazing board of Ukraine Medical Outreach…those currently serving and those who have served in the past. We are amazed at your dedication to the ministry here in Ukraine, and cannot express in simple language how much your encouragement, your prayers, your skype calls, your notes, and your direction has meant to us…and also to the people we serve here in Ukraine. You are a gift from God.

Board member Tom Saxon is arriving today as part of a team spending a week here to improve the care for children with autism and to help support their families. Please pray for not only the conference at the end of the week, but also for the strategic meetings with government officials and educators over the next days. Pray also for the specific families that the team will be meeting to evaluate their children, to give encouragement, and to give some specific direction in caring for them.


Give thanksI do love living in an area that has four seasons. My most favorite seasons are fall and spring because they are less extreme than summer and winter. Especially here in Ukraine. Thankfully I prefer the cold of winter — snow rather than cold bone-penetrating rain…brrrrrr — over the heat of summer. This summer wasn’t so sizzling, but some years I have just wanted to climb into the fridge. Fall appeared with its cooling temperatures and I so love the bright yellows and golds as the leaves prepare to drop.

Today while walking around Podil with Jim, the cold winter breeze made itself known. Blustery. Actually quite chilly, though I won’t say cold yet. Cold is really really cold here. Really. Until we have inches of ice on the sidewalk, and trucks hauling snow away from the streets, then it’s not yet winter. Nor really cold. But it’s coming.

And as much as I love the white blanket of snow covering the dirt of the city, I do also love living in the city of flowers. Spring is amazing. The whole city smells new! Everyone comes alive after hibernating through the last month of winter — typically gray, wet, dirty…with everyone wearing black or grey. Bright colors on the trees, in the gardens, and on the clothes. Truly a sight for sore eyes.

Just wish it didn’t turn back into summer for sooo long.

Tetyana Demiyanova and Project Hopeful

Give thanksSo thankful for Tetyana Demiyanova! She has accepted a new position in our ministry — Family Consultant. She works directly with the parents, grandparents, and caregivers of those children who are hospitalized in the HIV/AIDS unit at Okmatdet, the national children’s hospital. She has not only accepted the position, but she is flourishing! Everyone loves her…the children, the parents, and the staff.

She has already created a flyer with valuable information for new patients’ families. Complete with a map of the hospital grounds, closest metro, restaurants, grocery stores, ATMs, hair salons…things you want to know but you don’t know who to ask.

Tanya is also in the process of compiling frequently asked questions to then put together a handbook for families with newly-diagnosed children. So often, it seems, parents are given too much technical/medical information…and all at once. We pray that this handbook will be a resource that will also point them to other resources when they’re ready for details!

We are thrilled to partner with Project Hopeful in this endeavor…and, in particular, with Traci Heim. While Traci was in-country adopting — AGAIN! — she visited the hospital with us. She observed as a new child was being admitted and innocently asked the question, “Who reaches out to the parents?” When Tanya heard the question, she couldn’t forget it. And she realized that SHE could be the answer to the question.

The rest is history. Well, since September. And Traci will be arriving in Kyiv in time for World AIDS Day. Tanya is organizing lots of visits to various sites so that Traci will have a better picture of just what it means to be HIV+ in Ukraine. The stigma is overwhelming. There is MUCH to be done. But we are on the way!!

Coalition steering committee

Give thanksWhat a privilege to be part of the steering committee for the Coalition for Children at Risk in Kyiv, Ukraine. The coalition is made up of many different organizations and groups who strive to meet the challenges of children on the street, in abusive homes, with special needs, hospitalized orphans — through live-in centers, foster care homes, transition homes for orphans moving from the orphanage to real life, hospital volunteers. If there is a need to be met, odds are that someone in the coalition is meeting it…or knows someone who is.

I love the networking that takes place. I must admit that early on in the life of this coalition it seemed that groups were very territorial. And even if someone else was doing the exact same thing only one block away, groups would not unite to serve nor even spread out! But as we all have learned to trust each other, much cooperation takes place. And all for the sake of the children.

Thankful to be blessed by the friendships of the committee members and also by the many that I meet through the meetings at large.

God is good and He is doing a mighty work in Ukraine — to God be the glory!


Give thanksSo very thankful for technology, and particularly for skype. Just today I was able to talk to our daughter Anna who is currently in Hong Kong for a Finance Forum. Her sister Jeanne plans to call us in the next few hours so that we can continue discussions about our travel plans next month as well as work out a pretty hectic schedule for the short time that everyone will be together. We love to be able to talk to Jeanne and Kolya (when he’s home) while watching two of our grandsons as they play in the background. I always smile when Milan holds something up to the camera so that Grammy can see it!! And Alek just likes to turn the camera to himself so that I get a full-screen version of his happy little face.

Our son Jamie along with his wife Dasha also treat us to conversations while we enjoy the antics of their two-year-old Lydian. Smart little boy! I love that we can live halfway around the world and these little boys know us by sight and by name. (Of course, they think we LIVE in the computer…)

But one of the very best things that has occurred because of skype is that we can regularly talk to my soon-to-be 84-year-old mother. She can no longer type notes to us and she can no longer punch all of the required numbers to call us in Ukraine. But as we watched her play solitaire on her computer screen, we realized that she has no problem clicking a mouse. SOOOO, we added skype to her computer and it runs in the background almost all of the time. If we (or her grandchildren) call her via skype, she sees our names pop up on her computer screen…even as she plays solitaire. She simply clicks the green phone to answer and we are able to talk to her AND see her. Can’t wait to actually see her for Christmas (first time since 1995), but skype certainly helps while we’re so far away.

Always thought we were spoiled Americans. Now we’re spoiled missionaries.

And not taking it for granted. So appreciative.

Language study

Give thanksOh, how thankful I am that I have an amazingly patient Ukrainian-language teacher who actually comes to my home twice a week! It’s wonderful that she designs all of her students’ lessons plans specifically for vocabulary that THEY will need to know. For example, when I was teaching English she taught me the correct words for the grammar lessons that I prepared…in fact, she even sat in on one of my lessons so that she could better help me teach! Turns out those adult lessons stopped, but I did teach English to pre-schoolers for a number of years…needless to say I needed to know how to say simple commands that the children would understand.

Currently we are going through the Jesus Storybook Bible in Ukrainian. Love the lessons, though the vocabulary is crazy! Lists of verbs that are the sounds that animals make: chirp, chatter, moo, bleat, caw and more. Not sure that I’m going to spend much time learning all of those!! Shhh.

What a privilege to study Ukrainian IN Ukraine!